Writing Style + Globalization
Molly O C Rowan
Writing for a global audience requires careful thought in terms of both content and style. If your document is a technical manual, instructions for use (IFU), forms for a clinical study, or another document that would use standard language, make sure that your document conforms to style guidelines before translating it. (See Part 1.)
Other content may be harder to assimilate into the style principles. Marketing materials that use idioms, puns, or humor could be difficult to translate. Technical documents with a lot of jargon or abbreviations present different obstacles. Translating this kind of content requires more flexibility and communication between clients, translators, project managers, and QA proofers, so the project may also require a longer deadline.
Unless the particular style is essential to the content of the document, prior to translation, it’s a good idea to revise or remove language that is US-centric or may not translate well.
An example: Your document has a list of important phone numbers with the header “Make the Right Call.” This idiom could be translated into Spanish as “Tome la decisión correcta” (Make the right decision). The idiom would be localized (translated for overall meaning, not word-for-word) but the “call” wordplay connecting to the list of phone numbers would be lost. Because it’s essential that the audience of your document know who to call, you change the header to “Important Telephone Numbers.” It’s not as snazzy, but it will provide a clear, accurate translation.
If non-standard language content is sent to be translated (by design or oversight), KJI’s QA specialists and translators are on the lookout for localization issues like this. We’ll either bring it to your attention to be adjusted, or the translator will make their language match yours as closely as possible.
But, hey, it probably wasn’t a very good pun anyway. (“Are you kidney-ing me?”)